Various Artists: Shuku! Respect 20-nen

This compilation celebrates 20 years of music from the independent Tokyo record company Respect. In August 1995 Kenichi Takahashi left the safety of his job at Sony Music Entertainment in order to start his own label. He began business just two months later as Respect Records and his first release appeared a month after that. From then until now Takahashi has stuck firmly to his ideals and has promoted and produced artists he likes and believes are worthy of attention, sometimes regardless of the financial risks involved.

The new release picks 20 tracks from the Respect catalogue. As well as music from Japan and Okinawa the 79 minute album includes tracks from France, Italy, Hawaii and Sierra Leone. It’s a very mixed bag representing both established and lesser known artists as well as a few obscure and eccentric choices. There are such wide swings in mood and style that not everything will be equally appreciated. That isn’t really the point as the main purpose is to showcase some of the wide variety of music Respect has released.

Kenichi Takahashi on the cover of the new album

Kenichi Takahashi on the cover of the new album

The track listing very loosely groups the selections by musical genre and by geography so it begins in Okinawa before moving on to Japan, Europe, Hawaii and elsewhere and ending up back in Okinawa for the final selection. The sole African track is from the late exponent of palm wine music S.E. Rogie. There’s a live track from French singer Zaz, and nearer to home ‘Survivors’ Banquet’ by Osaka’s Soul Flower Union who moved along with Takahashi from Sony to Respect.

Always a supporter of Okinawa and its music, Takahashi has produced some important albums from these islands and the collection opens with ‘Sukikanna’ by Seijin Noborikawa & Sadao China, followed by ‘Jin Jin’ from the 1999 groundbreaking recording made on Taketomi Island by Takashi Hirayasu & Bob Brozman, and then ‘Soi Soi’ from Ryukyu Underground’s debut.

I first met Kenichi Takahashi in Osaka when he was still working for Sony. He arranged for me to interview members of the original Nenes who were touring mainland Japan at the time to promote their second album. It was just the beginning of a long relationship and since his brave venture with Respect he has continued to keep me up to date with his goings on and has regularly sent new releases on to Okinawa. In a world increasingly run by faceless corporations it’s people like him with the courage to go it alone who deserve our congratulations and our ‘respect’ too as his company enters its third decade.

Shuku! Respect 20 nen ~ Mina-sama no okage de ~ will be released by Respect Records on 7th October.


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